Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pasta al Forno






Pasta al forno is the ultimate in rustic comfort food. "Forno" means oven in Italian, so as the name would imply, this is a baked pasta dish. Lasagne is the more common baked pasta, put this variation is absolutely worth making, a definite crowd pleaser. Because it can be made ahead of time, this is the perfect thing to serve when company is coming. If there are any leftovers, they are even better the next day. You need to first make the ragu (meat sauce), then prepare the besciamella and cook the pasta. Then you will be ready to assemble this delight.

Ingredients:

one batch of classic ragu bolognese (see recipe below)
one batch of basic bechamel (besciamella) sauce (see recipe below)
1 pound of dry rigatoni pasta (I prefer Barilla)
ground nutmeg
butter
abundant grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese


First prepare the ragu:

Ingredients:
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 carrot diced
1 celery stick chopped
1 clove garlic minced
4 strips bacon
1 1/2 pound ground beef (or mixture with ground veal or pork)
2/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup milk
grated nutmeg
14 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh oregano, less if dried
salt to taste

If you have a chopper, for me this is the easiest way to get started. In your chopper, put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and bacon. Cut the ingredients into uniform size pieces before putting in chopper. Then pulse the chopper until everything is pretty finely chopped. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and when it is really hot, and the vegetable mixture. Saute over medium high heat until everything becomes nice and golden. Next add the ground meat, and stir occasionally until the meat is nicely browned. Add the red wine to the meat mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir regularly until most of the wine has been absorbed by the meat mixture. Add salt to taste. Now add the milk, and a little bit of nutmeg. Continue cooking until most of the milk been absorbed. Next add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and oregano. Stir all the ingredients together, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 1-2 hours if you can. The sauce should take on a brick red color. Sauce should be quite thick, but if is too thick, you can add a little bit of canned tomato sauce (puree) until you get your desired consistency. If the sauce will be used for lasagne, you need it to be thicker. Your sauce is ready!

Next bring a large pot of salted water boil, and cook the rigatoni until it is still quite firm, quite al dente. Be sure not to overcook the pasta, as it will continue to cook in the oven as it is baked with the ragu. Drain the pasta and set aside until your besciamella is ready, and you are going to assemble the dish.

For the besciamella (bechamel) sauce (makes 2 cups)
1/2 stick (4 tbsp butter)
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
dash of ground nutmeg

Melt the butter in a small heavy bottom sauce pan. Add the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes over medium heat. In another small sauce pan, heat the milk until almost boiling. Gradually add the milk to the butter/flour mixture, stirring constantly. A wire whisk is helpful to avoid lumps. Once all of the milk has been added, bring to a gentle boil, and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Sauce should be somewhat thick. Season with salt pepper and nutmeg, stir well, then remove from heat.

Once the ragu is made, pasta drained al dente, and bescimella made, you can then assemble your pasta al forno.

I usually use a 9 by 13 inch baking dish for this pasta, but you can use whatever oven safe dish you prefer. First put about a 1/3 cup of besciamella sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Then in a separate mixing bowl, toss the pasta with the ragu sauce and about a cup of besciamella. Combine well. Then put half of the pasta with sauce in the baking dish. Layer another 1/3 cup of besciamella on top of the pasta. Finish with the remaining pasta and layer the remaining besciamella. Sprinlke generously with grated parmigiano reggiano. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Then the last 5 minutes, turn the oven to broil to achieve a nice brown crust on top. Watch carefully as it can burn easily. Let the pasta cool 5-10 minutes before serving. I am sure you will enjoy. Buon Appetito!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pollo ai peperoni




There's nothing better and more comforting after a hard and long day at work than to come back home to a nice meal. I really enjoy when you're about to enter the door and you can smell the aroma of whatever today's "chef" is surprising, leaving you pleasantly guessing. One of my favorite is the smell of a bakery, when they make bread or any pastry. It's very comforting and somewhat reassuring. One of my favorite meals that fits into this category is chicken with bell peppers. I like to simmer the chicken very slowly, first in oil and then add some white wine, just for the multiple-layered experience to have every room filled with different aromas. The outcome, of course is outstanding

Ingredients:

6 to 8 chicken drumsticks
3 bell peppers, possibly different colors
1 onion
Extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 can of crushed tomatoes  ( 4 fresh tomatoes if you prefer)
half a cup of white wine

Using a large round pot, let the oil get warm before tossing the garlic carefully minced. Once the garlic gets a golden color, peel and slice the onion, toss it in the pot, and let it simmer for about five minutes at medium heat, without making it too brownish. Meanwhile cut the bell peppers, getting rid of all the small seeds, into half an inch large strips. Next, gently lay the chicken drumsticks and let them cook in the oil, making sure they get that crispy brown color given by the oil. Make sure you turn the drumsticks around every now and then to guarantee that color uniformly. Once the chicken looks nicely cooked pour the white wine on top and let it reduce for about three minutes. Now it's time to toss the peppers in the pot, mixing them with the chicken , making sure that the heat is not too high. Cover with a lid letting a little gap for the steam to get out for about eight minutes, stirring every now and then the peppers with the chicken. Finally, pour the tomato sauce on top and mix all the content of the pot with it. I like to leave the  lid on, because the steam falling back into the pot guarantees some moisture while cooking. Now you can put the heat a little higher, but make sure that you check that the sauce doesn't dry out too soon, adding a little bit of water now and then. The chicken will be ready when the sauce is a brick red color, and small tender pieces of the chicken begin to separate from the drumstick bones. Pair up with a nice Cabernet and Focaccia bread.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gnocchi con funghi e salsiccia




Gnocchi ( the "ch" in italian has the same sound as a K) were traditionally introduced in Europe when potatoes arrived from the Americas. The Romans specifically introduced them into the Italian region, importing them from various areas of their vast empire. Since gnocchi, literally means dumplings, it might have an even older origin than pasta itself. When I think about gnocchi in any shape or form, I just have the image of my mother with her apron full of flour and her 'mattarello" ( rolling pin). It was a tedious and hard process, but the result was always rewarding and tasty. While we may have the desire to make gnocchi from scratch, and it is the preferred method, this recipe calls for the dried, vacuum sealed variety.  Because most weeknights, that can make this delicious dish accessible. We will post a gnocchi from scratch recipe in the near future. Gnocchi can be made with the most varied ingredients, such as squash, bread, and semolina flour; and they can be flavored mixing the dough with spinach, saffron, and even truffles. They are boiled in water or broth and like pasta they can be dressed  with many sauces such as pesto, tomato, butter and cheese. One of may favorite type of cuisine is the 'rustic' cooking, homemade, old grandma, traditional cooking. Something that has been sent down from generation to generation and that you know it has to be made from fresh simple ingredients. 
Gnocchi with funghi e salsiccia definitively give me that feeling, home, hearty rustic, tasty style of food.


Ingredients:
2 lb. gnocchi (I like Trader Joe's dried, vacuum sealed)
1 1/2 pounds sliced fresh mushrooms (I like to use crimini)
1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 leek
1/2 carrot
1 celery stalk
1/4 cup marsala wine
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste


Combine the carrot, celery and leak in a chopper or food processor until finely chopped. Then saute them in a hot skillet with 3 tablespoons of the butter. Once they begin to soften, add all of the mushrooms. Stir all together over high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the marsala wine. Again, stir occasionally, until the mushroom mixture begins to caramelize, and the most of the wine has been reduced. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the flame to a simmer, and cover for about 15-20 more minutes. If the mixture becomes to appear too dry, you can add some more wine, or more butter. 


Heat another smaller skillet and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Next, get the sausage and remove it from the outer casing, crumbling it into small pieces into the hot skillet. At this time add your sprig of fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped.  Once the sausage is cooked, add it to the mushroom mixture. Stir all of the ingredients together, and remove from heat. 


While the sausage and vegetable mixture are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a hard boil. When water is ready, drop in the gnocchi and cook to package directions, being very mindful not to overcook. They only take a few minutes. When gnocchi are done, drain them, then toss them with the mushroom sausage mixture over high heat, until everything is uniformly combined, and nice and hot to be served. The gnocchi should be stirred very gently, as they are delicate. If you like, serve in your desired serving dish with a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese on top. This is a hearty, delicious, rustic meal. ENJOY!
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Stuffed Vegetables




Whenever I am getting ready to prepare a meat dish, such as a roast of some kind, I am always left puzzling about what kind of side dish to prepare with it. Vegetables are colorful, and full of vitamins, but I am always looking for new ways to keep them tasting fresh and interesting. These stuffed vegetables (usually peppers, onions,and tomatoes) are easy to make ahead of time, and they reheat really well. They are hearty, and simply delicious. Even picky eaters who aren't crazy about the vegetables by themselves will be won over by the wonderful parmigiano reggiano cheese and the bread crumbs. They make great leftovers the next day.

ingredients:
2 red onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 red or yellow bell peppers, halved with the seeds removed
2 large tomatoes, halved crosswise, seeds and juice set aside
1 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Next, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling hard, put the onions in for about 2-4 minutes until they are somewhat soft. Remove the onions, and once cool take out the inside layers and set them aside, leaving you with an outer shell of onion about 2-3 layers thick.

In a food processor put the inside from the onions, the seeds and juice from the tomatoes, and the parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse the food processor until the mixture reaches a homogeneous consistency.

Next, line a shallow casserole dish with aluminum foil. Put the peppers, onions, and tomatoes cut side up, and fill them with the food processor mixture. Do not pack them too tightly, just fill them up, then drizzle the tops with some olive oil, and a sprinkling of parsley. Bake for about a half hour, then I like to turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the end, to get a nicely browned top. Watch out, as they can burn in a hurry. I like to serve them right away and eat them hot, but they are can be nice at room temperature as well. ENJOY!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Foodbuzz Challenge: Next Food Blog Star




The tag line on my blog says it all: Eating well matters. Those three words define me as a blogger.  Eating well means different things to different people. For me it means eating high quality food, preferably home-made.  Eating well means additionally, that the food must not only be good food, it must taste phenomenal. Under no circumstance would I ever add some trendy grain or berry of the  week to anything I intend to consume unless it is what belongs in the recipe. Convoluting taste with extraneous junk isn't eating well.  Counting fat grams, carbs, substituting sugar for who knows what...NO THANKS! Give me the full flavor, full fat, real butter, genuine anything.  When I shop for my food, I go to the local produce market, where fruit and vegetables  come direct from the grower, and the meat is sold by the butcher, not in a styrofoam package.  If I am eating a variety of really high quality food, I know that I am doing my body right. That is eating well.






So, yes, food has to be real food, not a wannabe food like marketing tool. But, just is important is the relaxing and enjoyable dining experience.  So, I must also define myself as gluttonous. I have little or no self control when it comes to eating delicious food. I like it, I eat it. Will power? Negative.  Eating well is taking time to enjoy a meal in the company of others, preferable with music, wine, and drinks. Some of the most memorable meals I have enjoyed were at big tables, surrounded by friends or family, with lots of lively conversation. The food experience is  what you eat, and how you enjoy it.  What I love so much about blogging is sharing my recipes with others, in the hopes that in creating these dishes for their family and/or friends, they will create a memorable experience both gastronomically and socially.
My blog is unique because it is based totally on what I love to eat. No one has my same experiences or food preferences.  I worked in lots of different restaurants as a college student, spent some time abroad in Mexico City, lived in Italy for a few years, and generally travel anywhere at any given opportunity. Everywhere I ever visit gives me something lasting, a memorable food experience that inspires me, and broadens my culinary horizons.  My blog is about taking those foods that have a special place in my heart, and trying to inspire others to give them a try.  All of my recipes are pretty simple, and they are able to be made in any average home kitchen.  I want the person who might ordinarily resort to some ghastly take out or frozen entree, to think again, and say, "Hey, I think I could make that!" I am convinced that everyone would be cooking every day if they could remind their palate what home-made food tastes like.
Why should I be the next  food blog star?  Because I am the  REAL deal, real food, real taste, real authentic recipes, real flavors, real enjoyment, real simple.  I should be the next food blog star because eating well matters.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sogliola alla mugnaia





Having grown up on a city which offers a huge variety of seafood, I'm always ready for any culinary experience that involves any creatures the sea has to offer. Any city with a reputable central market will surely offer a display of colors, aromas and screaming people trying to sell their best products. Seafood markets are always an adventure, because you never know what kind of fish the local fisherman are able to provide. The challenge is for you to cook it in a way that will glorify the qualities of that particular fish, whether it is an anchovy or a giant squid. I don't need to mention the well-known nutritional properties of seafood, the more I find out about it the more surprised and pleased I am. The enjoyable part of seafood is that it is just as versatile to cook as it is meat or vegetables.
I recently came across some fresh sole, I believe not the more notorious and renowned European Dover sole, but a type of sole found in the Americas and fished both in fresh and salt water. I remember eating sole in Europe cooked in a very simple but tasty way. After talking to some friends I decided to give it a try and reproduce it.

Ingredients for 2 people
2 whole fresh soles, cleaned and de-boned
2 ounces butter
2 cups of flour
Fresh parsley finely minced
1/2 cup milk
salt to taste

Put both soles in the milk and coat them with flour on both sides. Melt the butter in a large pan. When hot, lay flat the soles, softly moving them now and then, making sure they don't burn. After three minutes, carefully turn the fish on the other side. When both sides are nice and brown, place them on the serving plate, sprinkle with some salt and add some drops of lemon juice before serving. Garnish with fresh finely chopped parsley.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crepes with Nutella




Anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit France has undoubtedly had a taste of heaven that is the crepe. Not only in France, the birthplace of the crepe, but around the world, crepes can be found anywhere from a roadside stand to an upscale restaurant menu. Crepes are like extremely thin pancakes, and can be filled savory or sweet ingredients. My personal favorite is the crepe filled with Nutella. Crepes with Nutella can be served as a decadent breakfast among friends, or also a dessert to add the perfect finale to any meal. The nice thing about serving them as a dessert, is that they can be made early in the day, and warmed in the oven for about 10 minutes just before serving. This recipe makes about 24 small crepes (about 4 inches in diameter). I do not think I have ever make this recipe and had leftovers, somehow they all manage to get eaten every time.



Ingredients:
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
tbsp of sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp melted and cooled butter



In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and milk. Beat with a wooden spoon until ingredients have come together. Next add the eggs and melted butter. Continue to beat the mixture until a nice thin batter is formed. At this point you can refrigerate the batter for later use, or the crepes can be made right away.



To make the crepes, place a medium sized nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. When the skillet is nice and hot, add a small drop of butter. Ladle about 1 ounce, or 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet and swirl it around so that it forms a thin round disk. The batter will begin to dry in about 30 seconds. It will just slightly begin to take on a golden color. With a spatula flip it over, and let it cook for  another 15 to 30 seconds. You do not want to crepes to get brown, so adjust the heat accordingly. At this point you can put the crepes aside for later use. I like to fill them with Nutella right away.



Get a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish, and grease generously with butter. Once your crepe is done, put a generous tablespoon of Nutella in the middle. (You can add more Nutella if you want additional gluttony.) Fold the crepe in half, and press lightly to make the Nutella spread. Then fold the crepe into quarters. Repeat with the remaining crepes. I usually fill the baking dish with six rows of four crepes each. If you plan to serve them later, cover and refrigerate. If you plan to serve your crepes right away, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the crepes with powdered sugar. Heat the crepes for about 10 minutes, then remove and serve right away. They are truly melt in your mouth delicious. ENJOY!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Finocchio al burro e parmigiano




Like most of the children I know today, when I was young I was never a big fan of vegetables. I believe the main reason was that very few of them are sweet, a very important component of success among youngsters. Also, most of them have a mushy, soft consistency that did not get along with my perception of nice food. Luckily, getting older I learned to appreciate not only the nutritional value of vegetables, but also the infinite and creative ways in which this nature's gift can be cooked. There were, however few veggies that my hopeless mom was able to suggest. One of them was fennel. She usually prepared them raw with some touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. The intense anise taste that accompanied my early meals was intriguing, but pleasant at the same time. I still enlist fennel, or anise , as some people might know it, as one of my top ten favorite vegetables. While it is always comforting preparing it as my mother used to do when I was young, there is a variety of ways this precious vegetable can be prepared. Just to list some important nutritional values, fennel seeds are used in some countries to improve eyesight, a property widely known also in the ancient Roman empire. Fennel can also be used as an effective diuretic and against hypertension. The way I prepared this simple "contorno" or side dish. is a good way to blend the strong flavor of fennel with the cheese that accompanies it.

Ingredients:
2 whole fresh fennels ( possibly with stems still attached)
5 tbsp. oil of olive
5 ounces of unsalted butter
2 ounces of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
A few shavings of Parmesan to top
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium size pot, heat the oil at low temperature and then add the fennel chunks once the oil is sizzling. Saute for about five minutes, making sure that the fennel doesn't cook too much. Then add the water so that the fennel is almost covered. Top with a lid, leaving a little gap for the steam and let the fennel tenderize for about 40 minutes . Stir the fennel every five to ten minutes. The goal is to make the fennel absorb the water and become tender at the same time. When the fennel has a creamy , soft consistency add the butter and keep on mixing for 5 more minutes. Before serving, add the grated Parmesan cheese and top it with the cheese savings. Serve warm as a side dish with a main course

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tagliatelle ai funghi





The first time I had tagliatelle ai funghi done right, it was at Trattoria Stella in Serramazzoni, in the foothills of Modena, Italy. When a gastronomical memory persists for over 15 years, you know you had a true culinary pleasure. The beauty of tagliatelle ai funghi is the simplicity, and how the quality of each ingredient can be perceived  in each and every bite. When prepared with fresh handmade egg pasta, the dish is divine. In the absence of freshly homemade egg pasta, substitute the best quality egg pasta (pasta al uovo) you can find. DeCecco makes one that is decent. So often similar versions of this pasta are made with a "cream sauce" which somehow becomes this thick and heavy white gravy like sauce. This dish is rich and flavorful, but the cream is actually quite light, and just adds to the richness of the flavor of the dish without weighing it down. Ideally, I would love to make this dish with fresh porcini mushrooms, but season and budget do not always allow. The following recipe is quite versatile, you can substitute mushrooms for whatever is fresh and seasonal in your area. Even when I use fresh mushrooms, I always used the dried porcini additionally, because they contribute a beautiful strong earthy flavor, and the water used to reconstitute them great to use at the end of cooking to toss with the final product.
Ingredients:
1 lb. tagliatelle egg pasta, or homemade tagliatelle pasta all'uovo
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted
1/2 pound sliced white mushrooms
1/2 pound slliced brown or crimini mushrooms
4 tbsp. butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
salt to taste
freshly grated parmesan cheese to garnish
Before making the dish, you need to reconstitute the dried porcini mushrooms. Soak the mushroom in a bowl of very hot water for at least 30 minutes. Then, remove the mushrooms, towel dry, and slice into smaller pieces. Strain and reserve the liquid for later.
While you are preparing the mushrooms, put a large pot of salted water to boil. Most egg pasta cooks really quickly, less than 5 minutes, so plan accordingly. 
In a large skillet, heat the butter until bubbly, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until they soften. Next, Add the mushrooms, both fresh and the porcinis. Salt to taste. Saute over medium high heat for 10-15 minutes. The mushrooms should be nicely browned.
When mushrooms look just about done, drop your pasta into the boiling water and cook to desired doneness, it should be al dente. Drain the pasta, and add it to the skillet with the mushrooms, shallot, garlic. With the heat still at medium to medium high, add the parsley and heavy cream. Stir until all the ingredients are well blended. Let the cream reduce. If liquid is absorbed too quickly, add some of the porcini mushroom liquid, or additional cream if you wish. The sauce should coat the pasta nicely, but it should not be thick at all.
Serve your pasta with a sprinkling of  parmesan cheese, and some fresh parsley. In terms of wine, I like a dry lambrusco with this dish. Your favorite red would surely be great, too.  ENJOY!!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hawaii shrimp trucks

People from all over the world come to Hawaii every year to admire the beauty and enjoy the charm of these wonderful Pacific  islands. I certainly enjoy going there whenever possible and soak up the calm and relaxing effect that this place has on me. I noticed that every time I go there my whole persona relaxes and gets used to a nicer and slower pace. Red light lasts longer than 30 seconds? No problem ! Long lines at attractions? Enjoy the surroundings. Naturally, no traveling experience would be complete without having tried the local flavors. Obviously, the seafood is the way to go around here (but do not neglect short ribs when available). On a recent trip to Oahu, I enjoyed a beautifully prepared whole red snapper , fried, majestically decorated , garnished with a nice sweet pineapple sauce. The Mai Tai and the beautiful sunset did the rest.




However, one of the most intriguing experiences that you certainly should not miss is having lunch at one of the famous shrimp trucks, widely available on the island of Oahu. We stopped on our way to Haleiwa and we found 3 or 4 of them close to each other.
The one that was the most attractive ( and most crowded too) was Giovanni's Shrimp truck, a graffiti-covered white shrimp truck which is the oldest and one of the best known shrimp trucks on Oahu's North Shore. They are famous for their garlic shrimp , and they have plenty of garlic, ask your significant others the next morning...! I also enjoyed a nice hot dog, which tasted really good. I definitively recommend a stop to this suggestive place if you are in the proximity.




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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ceviche




Imagine yourself eating outdoors with a beer or margarita in hand, an ultra chilled dish of ceviche in front of you, tortilla chips on the side. With the hot days of summer upon us, ceviche is the perfect appetizer or even main course on a warm evening. No cooking required, and it's all make ahead. Ceviche is a seafood dish, consisting of raw seafood which marinates in citrus juice, usually lemon or lime. Most people believe that ceviche originates from Central or South America. Many countries and regions have their own special version. This particular recipe is similar to one that I have enjoyed in Mexico.  In Mexico, ceviche would most commonly be made with red snapper. I think it's best with a nice white fish, use whatever is the freshest that you have available. In my opinion, tilapia works great. The fish should marinate at least 4 hours before serving, but your best bet is to make it a day ahead. This way, the flavors are will blended, and you are sure that your fish has the texture you want, and is safe to eat.  If you have a chopper, it's the way to go for this recipe, but if not, or you prefer to chop by hand, go for it!
Ingredients:
2 lbs. very fresh white fish, such as tilapia or red snapper
6 tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 of  an onion, chopped
juice of about 8 limes, or about 6 oz. lemon or lime juice
3 serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
Tostadas or tortilla chips to serve as accompaniment
First you need to cut the fish into small pieces, like a centimeter dice. Put it all in the bottom of a large bowl. Next squeeze the juice from the limes (or lemon). Pour the juice over the fish and stir well.  The juice should cover the fish, if it doesn't, then add more.
Next add the tomato, onion, cilantro, serrano chiles, olive oil, and some salt to the bowl. Stir well. Your ceviche is now prepared, it just needs time to marinate. I recommend making it a day ahead of time, because I like the flavor of the end result better. If you must make and serve it on the same day, just be sure it is  refrigerated at least 4 hours before serving.
To serve the ceviche, place it in a serving bowl with tostadas or tortilla chips on the side. You can spoon the ceviche on the tostadas, or dip the chips if you prefer. If you want, wedges of avocado make a nice garnish. Your ceviche will be chilled, fresh, and delicious. You can enjoy it with a glass of white wine, but my personal faves would be a Cadillac margarita, or an icy cold beer. Buen Provecho!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Robiola cheese wrapped in bresaola




One of the greatest food experience anybody could have is to go to Italy or France and explore the huge variety of cheeses available. The appealing aspect of this adventure is that when you travel specifically through these two countries, languages, customs, and of course culinary traditions vary dramatically, even within small distances.
In France , for example, the local fromagerie will always offer an endless and exquisite variety of cheeses, just stopping on one of these stores is a journey within your traveling. I grew up in Italy,and for me the flavor of cheese paired or mixed with other ingredients has always been part of the cuisine I was exposed to since I was born. For whatever reason, though, I was never particularly attracted to soft or very creamy cheeses, maybe because of the particular refined taste and texture that these cheeses offered. Now, however, there are very few of these cheeses, if any,that I don't enjoy, even on a daily basis. One of my favorite is the Robiola an Italian soft-ripened cheese of the stracchino family, made with varying proportions of cow’s, goat’s milk and sheep milk.Varieties of Robiola are produced across Piemonte and into Lombardia. It has a tangy taste, pungent smell and if one can overcome the smell, the taste is delectable. In this recipe the cheese will be wrapped with Bresaola, an air-dried salted beef, aged about three months , dark colored, very flavorful. Since Robiola is not widely available , you can substitute with creamy cheese of your choice available locally.
Ingredients for 4 people
1/2 lb of fresh bresaola meat  cut paper thin
1/2lb of fresh Robiola cheese or other fresh creamy cheese of your choice.
drizzle of  extra virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste
Take each bresaola slice, place a teaspoon of cheese and gently over the bresaola, without spreading.Gently roll the bresaola meat over the cheese so as to form a nice wrap. Do this with every piece of bresaola and the rest of the cheese. Before serving, gently sprinkle the wraps with some pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fresh fruit pie with crumble topping





In the summer, when all of the best fruits are at the peak of their season, it is the ideal time to make a fresh fruit tart. This recipe is super versatile, because the best fruit to use is the ripest, sweetest fruit you have on hand. You can use peaches, plums, strawberries, apricots, grapes, whatever your favorite is. While traditionally a tart would be open faced, this one has a sort of a crumble on top. In my opinion, it just makes the tart that much more delicious. No jams, creams, glazes, etc., just fresh fruit and pastry goodness. Beautiful dessert, and also a tasty breakfast pastry if there is any leftover. While those who are super ambitious may choose to make there own puff pastry, I always use the frozen ready made puff pastry, and I find the results to be great, and the convenience can't be beat. This dessert is the ideal ending to a summer barbecue meal.
Ingredients:
1 ready to bake puff pastry sheet, thawed at room temperature for about 40 minutes.
approx. 1 - 1 1/2 lb. of your favorite fresh fruit, cut into uniform size pieces
4 oz. butter (at room temperature)
4 oz. sugar
4 oz. flour
pinch of salt
Roll out the pastry dough when it is thawed, and spread it over a round tart pan. (Mine is about 11 inches in diameter, and the bottom comes out.)  Completely cover the bottom of the pan with fresh fruit. Next make the crumble. In a mixing bowl, blend together the flour, sugar, butter, and pinch of salt until it becomes uniform and smooth like a dough. Crumble it in chunks over the top of the fruit. Bake the tart in an oven preheated to 400 degrees for approximately 45 minutes. Let cool before serving, I prefer it best at room temperature. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers promptly. Enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sardine Impanate - Fried sardines




Have you ever met anybody that cringes about the idea of having anchovies on their pizza? Well I actually belong to the opposite category of consumers. I absolutely adore seafood in every form and shape. The sharper the taste is, the better. I used to be somewhat puzzled by customers when I was working at a restaurant , when they would return seafood plates back to the kitchen, because in their opinion it was "too fishy"...well, isn't what fish is supposed to taste like? I guess my palate is not as refined. I recently also discovered great benefits in eating seafood for a lot of different reasons. Sardines definitively fall into that category. Forget your daily does of vitamins, these little wonders are rich in vitamin B12, selenium, omega-3 oils, protein, phosphorus and vitamin D. Basically what that means is cardiovascular health, memory, joints, skin and energy levels. Today, with this recipe I'll upset a little bit the nutritional value, because I will fry them, but once you try just one, you'll understand my weakness.
Ingredients for four servings:
2lbs of fresh sardines
2 whole eggs
a pinch of salt
a pinch of fresh pepper
15 ounces of breadcrumbs
15 ounces vegetable oil
First of all you have to butterfly and clean your sardines. Just start from the head and pull slowly until all the innards will come out. Secondly, butterfly slowly the small fish and take out the bones with your fingers. Once you have cleaned up all the sardines you need to beat the eggs, adding the salt and pepper to the mixture. Next dredge all the sardines in the egg mixture, and on a different plate, coat each sardine on both side with breadcrumbs.
On a medium size pan heat the oil and then fry the sardines. You can fry more than one at a time according to the size of your pan. The sardines should reach a light golden color before being removed from the pan. Serve with a light sprinkle of salt and few wedges of lemon. Pair up with a nice cold Chardonnay

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Involtini di Pollo - Ham and cheese stuffed chicken rolls



Nowadays there are more chicken recipes out there than days available to be able to cook each one. It is a very popular and versatile type of meat and it pairs really well with a large variety of ingredients. What I really like about chicken is that you can prepare it as a whole or use a different number of parts, the breast being definitively the most popular. I have tried and cooked chicken breast in many ways and the result has always been satisfying. However one thing that I don't think people try very often is using the chicken as an ingredient to be rolled over and stuffed with either vegetables, cheese, or other types of meat (your imagination is the limit). I always enjoyed for example chicken sauteed in butter with some ham and sage on top, but in this particular recipe the breast is laid flat on the pan, without being rolled. Today I'd like to have a very thin sliced and long ( length is important) chicken breast stuffed with ham and cheese of your choice. ( I like Swiss.)
Ingredients:  
4 long and thin sliced chicken breasts
a slice of ham for each breast
a slice of cheese of your choice
50 grams of butter
1 cup of white wine
Take each breast flat open and lay a slice of ham and a slice of cheese of top. Next roll slowly each breast and try to use more than one toothpick to hold the roll firmly. Please make sure you advise your guests to be careful about the toothpicks when they will eat the breasts! Next, we will melt the butter in a nice large pan and lay all the rolled chicken breasts. To enhance the flavor it is recommended that the chicken gets that brown, caramelized color uniformly all around it created from the butter. After the breasts are brownish all round, top the chicken with the white wine and put a lid on top of the pan, leaving a little opening. Let cook for about 15 minutes on slow-medium fire. Serve warm with a nice white wine. This dish pairs up really well with mashed potatoes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Empanadas




Empanadas are believed to have originated in Spain or Portugal. The word empanada comes from the word "empanar" which means to coat with bread or pastry. So, an empanada is a bread or pastry that surrounds some kind of delicious filling. Empanadas were brought to South America by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Just about every country in South America, as well as many regions within each country have their own version of the empanada. This recipe is from my friend Pablo's aunt Liliana, who is from Rosario, Argentina. It is a classic empanada with a meat picadillo. Personally, it's my fave. These empanadas make a great starter, or they can be served as the main course. They are wonderful with a nice Argentinean red wine, like a malbec, or bring out the sangria on a hot summer day.

This recipe is for about 4 dozen, or 48 empanadas. That sounds like a lot, but they go fast, and they are real crowd pleasers for gatherings.

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
2 pounds onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp cumin
2-3 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 cup sugar
hard boiled eggs cut into eighths, green olives,
if you like, raisins optional
48 tapas (discs of dough) I like "La Saltena" brand, sold in the freezer section of Latin American specialty grocers. I suggest "para freir" for frying. You can also get "para hornear" to bake, but in my opinion the result is inferior.
Vegetable oil for frying, or lard if you dare


In a large skillet heat the extra virgin olive oil until super hot. Add the diced onions, and stir frequently until they become slightly golden. Add this point add the ground beef, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon.

Add the salt, pepper, and cumin, mix together well, then add the paprika a bit at a time. The mixture will start to  take on a reddish color. It should be red, but not too dark.

Continue cooking and stirring the mixture for appoximately 10-15 minutes longer. Next, add the sugar, and stir for another 5 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.

At this point, let the mixture cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate it for about 12 hours. It is best to make the filling the day before you are planning to use it.

If you are using the frozen tapas or discs of empanada dough, let them thaw at room temperature for about an hour before you intend to use them. Put about a tablespoon of the meat mixture in the center of each disc, I always put a green olive at the end. Traditionally, you would also add the wedge of hard boiled eggs, and raisins are optional. I omit them. Press the dough closed all the way around, then fold the dough over with your fingers and crimp closed. You can also use a fork to seal the empanada shut, but you can do just fine by hand, once you have a system down.

When you are ready to cook the empanadas, heat your oil to a high heat (around 375 degrees) in a fryer. Drop the empanadas in, and  let cook for about 3-4 minutes, until they look a nice golden color. Be sure to turn them over during the cooking process. When done, set them on a paper towel lined baking dish to absorb any excess oil until ready to serve. They are best served and eaten immediately. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Perfect Cappuccino with $40 tools



By now we can all agree that Starbucks is very expensive, no matter what your perspective is. There is also another element that I find extremely troubling. The amount of time that it takes to get your order ready, it doesn't matter if it is a single espresso or a double mochaccino, non fat milk with double swirl and so on....( for those of you that visited any European bar or coffee, you know what I mean....) There are a lot of excellent alternatives to your coffee house membership cards. Some of the new coffee machines that you can buy for your house are very nice. They look good in their design and they make excellent cappuccinos. However, if you are not willing to spend $ 500 or more, chances are that in the long run you won't be happy. I 'd like to propose a valid alternative that, I think, gives you excellent results and doesn't break your bank.
You will need to go to Amazon, or your vendor of choice and purchase:
1 Aerolatte Milk Frother, Sating finish By Aerolatte $ 14
1 Bialetti Moka express 3 cups espresso maker $25
Ground coffee of you choice ( I prefer prepackaged vacuum sealed Lavazza)




You are also going to need a stainless steel milk frothing pitcher. You can find them at any hardware store or Target.
First of all read directions on how to make espresso with your new Moka machine. It's not very complicated, and once you get the hang of it ,it will come easier and easier everyday. If you are a coffee drinker, you will definitively enjoy the strong , full flavor of coffee that this small wonder produces !
For a nice cappuccino, fill you porcelain ( not paper please !) mug to a level that you please , not more than a half though, otherwise you won't have much space left for your milk and froth. On the stainless pitcher, warm up the milk at your liking. I suggest that you don't make it too warm, it should be a pleasant moment of your day, not a torture! Once the milk is ready , insert the Aerolatte inside and watch the nice froth fill up the pitcher. Once the froth is ready, pour the milk in the mug where the coffee is, holding back the froth with a spoon, just to add the froth on the top. You can add more milk or more froth, it depends how you like it.
I hope you enjoy this idea and give me some feedback !

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Clams and mussels in tomato broth




Clams and mussels are two very popular shellfish all over the world. There are many ways that they can be prepared. I remember that one of my favorite ways of eating them was a long time ago in Spain in a town called Tossa De Mar, about an hour north of Barcelona. Each individual mussel was covered in a spicy tomato sauce. What kind of patient cook would go through such a preparation for each single mussel? Well, someone who wants make sure you still remember his delicious recipe fifteen years later! In Italy and all over the Mediterranean, clams and mussels are very commonly paired with pasta. Very popular are the linguine with clams in a white wine sauce. Another intriguing and very tasty way to have clams is the clam chowder, a dense, creamy soup very popular in the Northwestern region of United States One of my absolute favorite way of eating clams and mussels, however is very particular to the northern Italian region.  The term used is "cassiopipa" and it indicates a terracotta container where originally the clams and mussels were cooked on a low heat on traditional fishermen boats. Here you can make your own clams and mussels in a delicious tomato broth.
Ingredients:
extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs of fresh mussels
1 1/2 lbs of fresh clams
3 garlic cloves, peeled, and minced
2 cups of white wine
5 tbsp of tomato paste
fresh minced parsley to garnish
Take your largest pan and heat it up with medium heat. Put the olive oil to heat and add the garlic minced. When the garlic gets to a golden color, add all the mussels and clams at the same time Make sure you stir the clams and mussels every 2 to 5 minutes. Let the shellfish cook for at least 10 to 15 minutes. they will open one by one and release water, which is a good thing, because that will be part of our delicious broth where we can dip our bread! Make sure you discard any shellfish that won't open after a long time. They might be dead and definitively not good for you! After the shellfish are all open and you have a nice broth brewing at the bottom, add the white wine and let it simmer until it evaporates.Finally add the tomato paste. Make sure that the tomato mixes with the nice liquid at the bottom of the pan. After 5 minutes get a very large bowl and serve all the shellfish with the tomato broth at the bottom. I love to dip some rosemary focaccia in the nice sauce.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tigelle




Modena is located in Emilia Romagna, known as the culinary bread basket of Italy. Tigelle are the quintessential food of Modena, a symbol of pride. So, what are tigelle? Simply put, they are a disc shaped bread, about the size and shape of an English muffin. The similarities stop there. Once baked, tigelle have a soft center, and a crisp crust. To be eaten, they are split open with a knife, then filled in a variety of ways. Below are some of the most common ways to enjoy tigelle:
-with pesto modenese (see recipe below)
-with thinly sliced Parma prosciutto nothing more
-with your favorite salumi, coppa, soppresata, bresaola, et. al
-with stracchino (or another creamy cheese, like brie), arugala, and grated parmesan cheese
-with nutella for dessert
In Modena, many people own a cast iron tigelliera (see photo) to make their tigelle stovetop. It is also common there to have an electric tigelliera cooking device. In the United States, you can buy your tigelliera in Modena and bring it back, or you can also use your griddle on the stove top. Don't worry, your results will still be satisfying.






Before you can eat  amazingly delicious tigelle, you have to make the dough. The quantities for this recipe makes about 20 tigelle.
Ingredients for tigelle dough:
2 teaspoons of dry active yeast
1 cup warm water (some people prefer to use warm milk)
pinch of sugar
pinch of flour
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, pinch of flour and salt. Stir gently, and let rest for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes bubbly.
You can make the dough by hand, I prefer to use my stand mixer. In the mixing bowl, combine the flour, olive oil, salt, and the yeast mixture. Mix first with the paddle attachment, then use the dough hook at medium speed, until the dough becomes nice and smooth and elastic. Knead by hand for a few minutes, forming it into a ball shape. Then lightly oil your mixing bowl, and coat your dough. Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth, and allow the dough to rise for at least 2 hours.
Once your dough has risen significantly, punch it down.  Then divide the dough into twenty balls. They should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Then, using your rolling pin, roll them into discs about the size of an English Muffin. They should be about 3 1/2 inches in diameter, and about 1 cm thick.  At this point, let them rise another 45 minutes to an hour.





Now your are ready to cook your tigelle. Assuming you do not have a tigelliera from Modena, heat your griddle or a skillet over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Put a little olive oil in the griddle, and spread it around. Now cook the tigelle side by side on the griddle for about 5 minutes on each side. Tigelle are best eaten hot off the stove top, but if you need to, you can keep them warm covered in a cloth in a bread basket, or keep them warm your oven heated to about 200 degrees. I recommend eating them immediately.






So, your tigelle are made, you now get to fill them with your favorite ingredients.
One of the more traditional ways is with "pesto Modenese".
To make pesto modenese:
Traditionally, one would use about 1/4 cup very high quality lard. I have rendered my own bacon fat, and the results were really good. In the absence of this, you can use 6 ounces of pancetta, minced very finely. Combine this with 1 clove minced garlic, and 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary, and a 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese. Mix all the ingredients together until they are homogeneous. That's it! When the tigella is nice and hot, split it open with a sharp knife, and spread the pesto. The pesto will just begin to slightly melt, and it will be heavenly.
Besides the most traditional pesto modenese, try more tigelle with any of the other above mentioned combinations. They all have their own appeal. Do not forget to save room for the final tigella of the night, which must include a generous serving of nutella. Nothing is more gluttonous!
Tigelle can be the main and/or only course. They also pair very well with gnocco fritto, another culinary pride and joy of Modena. (coming soon to mangiandobene.) As for wine, the by far superior choice has to be the lambrusco. I STRONGLY recommend making the extra trip to the wine shop for a higher quality lambrusco, not the ultra sweet one that is found at every grocery store. Lambrusco is a lightly sparkling red wine, and it is never missing at any true tigellata. Invite over lots of friends that enjoy eating amazing food, and have your own tigellata. Enjoy!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Polpette di Tonno Tuna Cakes




We have been enjoying crab cakes for quite a while now, thanks to our New England friends. In the Veneto region of Italy polpette di tonno, or tuna cakes, have been around forever, but are sadly so undiscovered in the United States. Polpette di tonno are delicious, simple to make, and leftovers are especially tasty.  They would commonly be  found in a Venetian wine bar as a "cicchetto" or  appetizer along with a glass of white wine. They can also be served as a main course. I like to put them on a nice bed of  arrugala, nothing else needed. (Except your favorite white wine.) Nothing could be simpler or more satisfying.
Ingredients (for about 6-8 polpette):
2  5oz. cans tuna in olive oil
3 pieces of white sliced bread (like Wonder bread)
1/4 cup flat leaf parlsely, finely chopped
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs
oil for frying
salt to taste
Drain the oil from the 2 cans of tuna, and put the tuna in a mixing bowl.  Remove the crust from 3 pieces of white sandwich type bread, and moisten it slightly with milk or water. tear the bread into little pieces, and put it in the mixing bowl. Next add the parsley and the egg. At this point get your oil hot and ready in a fryer.
With your hands, combine the above ingredients until they make one homogenous mixture. Form the tuna into 6-8 balls, depending on the size you desire, then flatten them slightly into a patty shape. Coat the tuna cakes generously with the bread crumbs, and set aside until ready to fry.
Once all the polpette have been formed, begin frying them a few at a time, for about 2 minutes. When they have a nice golden brown color, remove from oil and  salt lighlty with sea salt. Put them on a paper towel lined baking dish until ready to serve.
I think they are nice served on a plate on a bed of arugula. Pour yourself a nicely chilled glass of your favorite white wine. I love to eat them hot, but they are also good room temperature. Leftovers are delicious as well the next day. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Peperonata



Peperonata is a delicious side dish that originates in the Puglia region of Italy. It makes a GREAT accompaniment to any meat dish. One nice thing about peperonata is that it can be made ahead of time, and reheated just prior to serving. It is also tasty served room temperature. The peppers and onions make this side dish a very colorful addition to any meal.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
About 6 sweet peppers, preferably a combination of red, orange, and yellow, cored, seeded, and cut into strips
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes, or about a pound of fresh diced roma tomatoes.
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot, and then add the onion and garlic.  Saute them until they get a nice golden color.
Add the peppers, and cook over a medium high heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the canned or fresh tomatoes to the peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Reduce the heat a little, and let the pepper and onion  mixture continue to cook until the liquid is reduced to a thick sauce.  This will probably take about another 10 minutes more.
The peperonata can be served immediately, or can be reheated later. It is a fresh, simple classic. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Funghetti Trifolati




I truly love mushrooms! For a lot of different reasons. They remind me of when I was younger and used to take huge hikes in September in the Alps. I love the smell of the trees right after it has rained, and that earthy scent is very characteristic of places where you can find a nice bunch of porcini. There are infinite varieties of mushrooms, and the beauty of this vegetable is that the flavor and aroma are so intense and delicate that most of the time you do not need to cook them for a long time or add any particular spices. The versatility of mushrooms is so vast that you can have them pretty much with anything you like; pasta, rice, chicken, meat. I really enjoy this particular recipe because it is very simple, fresh and easy to cook.

Ingredients
1 pound mixed variety of mushrooms, such as cremini
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of fresh Italian parsely, chopped
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
pepper
salt

First, in a large skillet  let the oil get hot. Then add the garlic saute until it takes on a golden color, without burning it. When the garlic is ready, add the mushrooms and let them release their juice and reduce for 5 to 10 minutes. At first the mushrooms look big, but they will shrink a lot.  Don't worry if it appears to be a lot at first.  When the mushroom has released all the liquid and it is reduced a bit, add the white wine and let it reduce for another 5 minutes , until the juice reaches a nice consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Before serving, sprinkle the parsley on top.






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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marinated Three Bean Salad




This three bean salad is my mom's recipe, and I suspect it has been around a while, because my copy was typed on a typewriter. Three bean salad is a classic American side dish for a reason. It's delicious, it is simple to make, and it is especially ideal for picnics and outdoor gatherings since it doesn't demand refrigeration.  There are many variations of three bean salad, but most all are composed of various types of beans, and a sweet vinaigrette. It is best when made at least a day ahead of time so that the beans can marinate overnight and gain more flavor. It's great at picnics, and as an accompaniment to grilled meat.
Ingredients:
1 aprox. 14 oz. can cut green beans
1 aprox. 14 oz. can yellow wax beans
1 aprox. 14 oz. can red kidney beans
 1/2 cup minced green pepper
1 diced onion
For the vinaigrette combine the following:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. black pepper
In a large bowl, preferably one with a lid drain and combine all of the beans.  Add the diced onion and the minced green pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the bean mixture, and refrigerate it overnight.  Stir the three bean salad mixture occasionally to continually blend the marinade over the beans. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  It is tasty chilled or at room temperature.  Simple and enjoyable!!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Risotto with Shrimp and Arugula





Risotto is a classic Italian rice dish  . The beauty of risotto is that it is so versatile. Whether it's meat, fish, or vegetables the key to a delicious risotto is using the finest and freshest ingredients that the season has to offer.
Risotto originates in northern Italy, and is quite prevalent in the regional cuisines of Piemonte, Lombardia, and Veneto. When I make risotto I always use arborio rice, which in my opinion gives a nice texture. In Italy, risotto would never be served as a side dish, it is the first course. This risotto with shrimp and arugula is simple enough to do on a weeknight, yet elegant enough to serve on a special occasion with a nice bottle of white wine. While most risotto is served with a generous sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano cheese, notice it is purposely omitted from this recipe. To combine cheese with your shellfish, or any fish for that matter is a cardinal sin of Italian cuisine. If you want to garnish this dish, go for the fresh parsley.
Ingredients:
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, tail off
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fresh arugula
2 cups arborio rice
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tbsp butter
vegetable bouillon cube (optional)
In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable broth to a simmer. Keep it simmering while you cook the risotto.
In a large heavy bottom skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then saute the onion and garlic until they soften and take on a nice golden brown color.
Next add the rice to the saucepan, and saute it with the olive oil and onion for a minute or two, so that it gets slightly golden.
Now it is time to add the broth. Using a ladle, Add the broth to the rice mixture. You want to cover but not drown the rice. Stir in the broth almost constantly until it is mostly absorbed by the rice. As the liquid is absorbed, continue to add more. The amount of liquid a rice will absorb varies, but on average it will take about 20 minutes for the rice to reach the desired al dente tenderness. You might use most of the vegetable broth, in the case that your rice needs more liquid, you can dilute the broth with water. You can add a vegetable bouillon cube if you want to give the broth a stronger flavor. Continue the process of stirring and adding more broth until the rice is tender but firm. After about 15 minutes (or when you think the rice is about 5 minutes away from being done.) of adding broth and stirring,  add the shrimp to the rice mixture. Continue stirring. When the rice is al dente, the shrimp is cooked through, and the broth has been mostly absorbed, stir in the arugula. At this point your can stir in the last tablespoon of butter to give the risotto a glossy finish. No garnish is necessary except perhaps a bit of freshly chopped parley if you've got it on hand. Enjoy with a nice prosecco or other favorite white wine.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sangria




Everytime I mention the word sangria, everyone always says, "MMMmmmm! I love sangria!" But how rarely we actually drink it. I am always so hesitant to order it out, because for my taste it is usually syrupy sweet. That ruins it for me. I like my sangria somewhat dry, with the nice fruit flavor in the background. In my book, the wine is should still be the star of this show. Sangria is REALLY simple to make, and it is a real crowd pleaser.
The word "sangria" is a derivative of the Spanish word sangre(blood) or sangrar(to bleed). In many ways sangre is a part of the lifeblood of Spanish culture. Depending on your meal pairing, it can be made with red or white wine. I personally only make it with red wine. You can experiment with different types of wines and fruits. While you can choose whatever red wine you have on hand, my first choice would be a Spanish rioja. Ideally you would make it at least a day or two before you intend to drink it, to allow time for the flavors to come together.
Ingredients:
1 bottle (750ml) red wine (riojs is a good choice)
1/2 cup triple sec
1/2 orange, sliced
1/2 lemon sliced
1/2 cup sliced fresh stone fruit, such as peaches, plums or apricots
Some people add soda water, I don't.
When I make sangria, I combine all of the above ingredients in a hermetically sealed jar, and I refrigerate it for at least 24 hours before serving. Serve the sangria in a red wine glass, you can add some ice if you wish. Give the sangria a stir before serving, and enjoy with some nice tapas, or perhaps with a steak meal. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Linguine al pesto genovese




The origins of pesto genovese go way back in time, to Genova, in the Ligurian region of Italy. The word pesto comes from the verb "pestare" which loosely translated, means to crush. Traditionally, pesto genovese would be made with the mortar and pestle. You would grind the ingredients until they reached the consistency of a paste.  While that method is surely tasty, and much more romantic, in my household convenience wins over on this one. The food processor is a pesto making champion. I can not stress enough the superiority of homemade pesto over anything you will buy in a store. Envelopes or jars? Yuck!!! Refrigerator section of Trader Joe's? Still not quite there. There is no substitute for making it fresh. So, here we go:
Ingredients:
4 ounces fresh basil
1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted is better, raw is okay)
1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese, or parmigiano reggiano
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
a few shakes of sea salt
1 pound linguine (I suggest Barilla)
In your food processor combine all of the above ingredients. Pulse the food processor until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. All of the ingredients should be blended together to form a kind of thick paste consistency. You may need to add more olive oil. Set the pesto aside until you are ready to use it.
In a large pot, bring your pasta water to a rapid boil. Add a handful of rock salt. Then cook your pasta according to package directions, or until it is al dente. When pasta reaches desired doneness, strain it and set aside. Put the pasta pot back on the burner over a low heat, and put all of the pesto in the bottom of the pot. Then pour in all of the pasta. Turn the heat up to medium, and stir the pasta until the pesto is uniformly distributed, and the pasta is nice and hot. If the pasta seems sticky or dry, add more olive oil. Serve your pasta with a nice additional sprinkling of the pecorino or parmigiano reggiano cheese. Enjoy, it is going to be delicious. I like a nice dry white wine with this dish, like a chardonnay.
This pesto recipe can also be used to make a cold pasta salad.   You can get some farfalle instead of linguine, throw in a half pound of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes. Toss, chill, and serve cold. It is a tasty favorite for a summer lunch or a picnic potluck.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spicy Asian Noodle Salad



This noodle salad is always a big hit at potlucks, picnics, and gatherings.  It is quite spicy, which is what I personally love about it.  The salad is best made ahead of time, preferably the day before. This gives the flavors time to blend. Also, it is intended to be served chilled, so it needs at least a few hours in the refrigerator after preparation.
For the dressing:
I know it is cheating, but I absolutely love Trader Joe's Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. I use the whole bottle (12 oz.) for one recipe of noodle salad. It is sold with refrigerated salad dressings at Trader Joe's. If you are unable to get this dressing, the next best thing is the same amount of ready made thai peanut sauce.  As you can see from the recipe, if convenience is the priority, Trader Joe's is a one stop shop to make this delicious side dish.
For the noodle salad:
1 lb linguine
8 oz. cooked chicken, diced into small pieces
4 green onions (scallions) thinly sliced
3 peppers, yellow, orange or red, cut into very thin strips (or use about 6 oz. Trader Joe's frozen pepper strips, let thaw before before using.)
2-3 carrots, grated (or about 4 oz. Trader Joe's prepackaged shredded carrots)
3-4 tablespoons sesame seeds
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the linguine according to package directions. When pasta is al dente strain and set aside. In the pasta pot, put the dressing/peanut sauce, and combine all of the other ingredients. Pour the pasta back into the pot, and stir thoroughly until all of the ingredients are mixed together consistently. That is it! What could be simpler? Now all you need to do is put the pasta salad in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. It is even tastier if you let it sit overnight. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rosemary Focaccia



Focaccia is a flat oven baked bread. It is often brushed with olive oil, then topped with an herb such as rosemary. Many attribute its origins to Genova. Focaccia is a popular snack, but also a delicious paired with a rich seafood stew to complete a meal. Many of the tastiest breads need a starter dough or require a really long time to rise.  What is really nice about this focaccia is that it needs only a couple of hours to rise, and the dough can be made in a snap. This recipe is simply delicious topped with rosemary, but you can be creative.  Olives, or onions can also make tasty toppings. Keep it simple, and it is sure to satisfy. Once you make the focaccia, the smell of the baking bread alone will keep coming back for more and more.
Ingredients:
1/4 oz. (1 package) dry active yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water
pinch flour
pinch of sugar
5 cups flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons of salt
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3-4  tbsp olive oil to brush focaccia
coarse sea salt
To start with, combine 1 2/3 cups warm water with the yeast and pinch of sugar and salt.  Stir well, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, until bubbly.
In a stand mixer combine the 5 cups flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 3 teaspoons of salt. When the yeast mixture is ready, add that to the mixing bowl. Use the  paddle attachment and  beat the mixture on medium speed until the dough starts to come together.
Once the dough is formed, switch attachments, and put the dough hook. Put the mixer to medium speed for about 2 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes, then form it into a nice ball.
In the bottom of your mixing bowl, put a few table spoons of olive oil. Roll the dough around in the bowl until it is evenly coated. Then put the bowl in  a draft free location, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rest for 1 1/2-2 hours, longer if time allows.
When dough has risen significantly, get your 9 by 13 inch baking sheet ready. Give it a nice coating of olive oil, then pour your dough onto it. Spread the dough so that it evenly covers the baking sheet. You can do this with your hands, or use a rolling pin to help you. At this point, cover the dough again with a kitchen towel, and let it rest for at least an hour longer.
When you are about ready to make the focaccia, heat the over to 425 degrees. With your fingertip, make indentations all over the dough. In a small bowl, put the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then brush it across the top of your focaccia dough generously, so the the oil goes inside the holes. Then, take your finely chopped fresh rosemary, and generously sprinkle it all over the  surface of the dough. Next, use a course sea salt, and give the whole focaccia a nice sprinkling.
When the oven is heated, place the focaccia on the middle oven  rack. Let it bake for bake for about 20-25 minutes, until it is nice and golden brown all over.
Remove focaccia from oven, let it cool a few minutes before serving if your company can resist. I usually cut it into squares. If there is any leftover, it does freeze well. You thaw frozen focaccia and heat it in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, leftovers will last about a day before starting to taste dried out. This has never been a problem in my household. ENJOY!!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Classic Ragu Bolognese



Anyone who cares about what they eat knows that Ragu is not the sauce that comes out of a jar. This is the classic Italian meat sauce. It can be served with fresh tagliatelle egg pasta, or spaghetti. This is also the same sauce that is used to make a traditional meat lasagne. There are many variations, but I consider this to be the authentic preparation. A delicious meat sauce is the ultimate comfort food, and it never disappoints.
Ingredients:
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 carrot diced
1 celery stick chopped
1 clove garlic minced
4 strips bacon
1 1/2 pound ground beef (or mixture with ground veal or pork)
2/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup milk
grated nutmeg
14 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp fresh oregano, less if dried
salt to taste
1 lb pasta of choice, tagliatelle or spaghetti
grated parmesan cheese to taste
If you have a chopper, for me this is the easiest way to get started. In your chopper, put the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and bacon. Cut the ingredients into uniform size pieces before putting in chopper. Then pulse the chopper until everything is pretty finely chopped. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and when it is really hot, and the vegetable mixture. Saute over medium high heat until everything becomes nice and golden. Next add the ground meat, and stir occasionally until the meat is nicely browned.
Add the red wine to the meat mixture. Bring to a boil, and stir regularly until most of the wine has been absorbed by the meat mixture. Add salt to taste. Now add the milk, and a little bit of nutmeg. Continue cooking until most of the milk been absorbed. Next add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and oregano. Stir all the ingredients together, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 1-2 hours if you can. The sauce should take on a brick red color. Sauce should be quite thick, but if is too thick, you can add a little bit of canned tomato sauce (puree) until you get your desired consistency. If the sauce will be used for lasagne, you need it to be thicker. Your sauce is ready!
For the pasta, bring water to a strong boil in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, add about a handful of rock salt. Now you are ready to cook the pasta until it is al dente. Once pasta is to desired doneness, strain it, and put it back in the pot with about a cup of sauce. Stir together over medium heat. Then put your pasta onto your serving dish, and top with an additional desired amount of sauce, and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Buon Appetito!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chimichurri sauce, choripan



Chimichurri is the quintessential Argentinean condiment and/or marinade. It can be used as a marinade for a succulent steak, or more simply in the form of churripan. Churripan is everything street food is supposed to be- fast, delicious, and genuine. With barbecue season upon us, why not give your gathering a South American flair?
For best results, make your chimichurri a few hours ahead of time, to give your flavors some time to come together.

For the chimichurri:
3 bunches Italian flatleaf parsley
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp crushes red pepper flakes
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor combine all of the above ingredients except the olive oil. Blend the mixture until it is finely chopped, and has the consistency of  a pesto. Then pour the contents into a container with a tight sealing lid. Add enough olive oil to cover the mixture, probably about a half cup. Stir well. The marinade should not be too thick, It should have enough oil to make it easily spreadable. Allow the marinade to rest at room temperature until you are ready to use it. Now it is to get the grill fired up!

To make churripan:
sausage (I suggest a German bratwurst. You don't need a spicy sausage, since the chimichurri has plenty of flavor on its own)
desired amount of chimichurri (above recipe)
fresh bread such as hoagie roll, baguette, or other sandwich roll.

Get your grill nice and really hot. Put the sausages on the grill, and let them get nice and browned on the outside. Once sausage appears done from the outside, remove them from the grill and butterfly them. Put them back on the fire, with the inside part down. Turn your sausage as needed until it reaches the desired doneness on all sides. When sausage is good to go, open up your bread of choice and put it on the grill with the inside part facing down. When it is nice and golden brown, remove from the grill. Promptly brush the bread generously with your chimichurri sauce. Put the sausage on top, and add a little more chimichurri if you so desire. Close the bread, and enjoy the amazing goodness that awaits you. Everyone will be coming back for more, so be prepared and enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Veal Stew Spezzatino di Vitello




Veal is a delicious and flavorful meat when prepared well. Stew meat tends to be a little less expensive than other cuts of veal, so this is a great way to take advantage of savings without sacrificing any taste. Veal from mainstream supermarkets tends to be way overpriced, and not as fresh since it may not move as fast. I can not overemphasize how it is worth the effort to seek out ethnic markets, or smaller independent markets that do their own butchering. The product will be fresher, less expensive, and unprocessed. I do this veal stew using a pressure cooker, and the result is really satisfying. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can follow the same recipe. Just allow yourself about 2-2 1/2 hours for the veal to simmer over a low heat until tender. This is a recipe that is ideal for the pressure cooker.

Ingredients:
2-2 1/2 pounds veal stew meat, cut in approx. 1 inch cubes
1 onion chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
1 lb. roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

In your pressure cooker (without the lid on) heat the olive oil, then brown the onion, rosemary and veal over high heat, about 5-7 minutes. Salt lightly. When veal begins to brown, add the chopped tomatoes, cup of white wine, and a cup of water, and sugar to the mixture. Stir well. Next secure the lid on your pressure cooker. Once the valve begins to rock gently, put the heat to medium high, and allow the meat to cook for about 15 minutes. Once the meat has had time to cook, reduce the pressure in your pressure cooker according to directions, with mine I place it in cold water. Once you are able to remove the lid, check veal for doneness and tenderness. There will be a lot of liquid remaining. Remove the veal from the pot and set aside. Turn the heat to high, and stir the cooking liquid regularly until it reduces to a nice sauce consistency. It will probably take about 15 minutes to fully reduce. You do not want the sauce to be watery at all, as it is quite unappealing on your plate. When the cooking liquid becomes to your desired consistency, put the meat back in the pot. Stir well, and bring the meat up to a nice desired serving temperature. Taste and adjust salt level as needed. Once the meat is hot and the sauce is thick, dinner is served. I think potatoes are a really nice side dish with the veal, along with a glass of your favorite red wine. Enjoy your delicious meal.